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Build your own exhibit in Smithsonian Learning Lab

1.4 million digital assets from 19 Smithsonian museums are available online for K-12 teachers and students.

Yizhu Wang
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Yizhu Wang

Yizhu Wang is a graduate student completing her studies at the University of Missouri and currently working as an intern at EdScoop, a division of ...

Darren Milligan, senior digital strategist at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, spoke at the 2016 CoSN annual conference. (Photo: EdScoop)

Teachers and students can create their own exhibits using materials from 19 Smithsonian museums.

The Smithsonian Learning Lab, launched in beta for the public last October, has attracted about 2,000 registered users so far. With this digital platform, educators and students can choose from over a million digital assets of the Smithsonian Institute to generate their own projects.

So far, the public can reach 1.4 million resources through Smithsonian Learning Lab’s website, including images, as well as online archives, audio and video files, and lesson plans designed by the researchers.

Darren Milligan, senior digital strategist at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, showcased the tool at CoSN 2016, an annual gathering of edtech leaders from school districts across the country.

Users can search by keyword with a specific topic. For example, if someone searches "Thanksgiving," about 188 resources related to the holiday pop up. Users can pick up and aggregate the resources that they need into an individual gallery, and showcase the gallery in class or share the link on social media.

Every six seconds, one object is digitized by the Smithsonian Institute, which means that an audience can look at materials through online databases or websites, Milligan said. With 19 museums of various topics including arts, history and technology, the institute has had 12 million digitized objects and large amounts of digitized books and archives.

Prior to establishing the Learning Lab, researchers in the center created lesson plans for pre-K–12 educators in various fields including science, technology, history and arts. The museums’ resources, like copies of paintings, were made into PDF documents. But a study conducted by the center showed that teachers tend to adapt and change the materials in their own way.

“The ability to change them easily and quickly for the needs of their children had quite a direct impact on whether or not they would use them,” Stephanie Norby, the director of the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, said in an interview. “The learning lab is to provide the same resources in a more flexible way.”

The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access received $500,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York in November for a two-year study. Researchers from University of California at Irvine will analyze how K-12 teachers and students use the platform through classroom observation and interviews.

The center will provide four full-day workshops each year for 30 middle school social science teachers in Allegheny County, Pa., as the pilot site of the study.

“We want to help teachers understand how to use these tools and how to understand the contents that are available to them,” Milligan said “But also, [it’s] for us to understand what types of supports are needed to help users move deeper into the system.”

Reach the reporter at yizhu.wang@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @yizhuevy.

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Education IT News, K-12, Open Educational Resources, Smithsonian Learning Lab, Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

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